Futile Genealogy

By the time Apostle John died, around 100 AD, there were already a handful of Christian scholars rising to occupy the apostolic leadership of the early churches. We are not in any position to argue either way whether anyone was justified in claiming apostolic office, but we see clearly their influence was on that level.

John had several disciples who led churches and wrote about him and his teaching. They in turn taught others who rose to prominence and some of their writings have survived. What you can notice is the sad truth that very early these leaders began a drift toward cerebral orthodoxy and forsaking the mystical approach of the first apostles.

But their drift was not without a great deal of prodding from what they perceived was the greatest threat to the gospel: the Judaizers. The Early Church scholars were reacting to a lot of garbage. Reading between the lines, we grasp that these Judaizers had used several common tricks to derail churches from the gospel message. One of them was the debate about the genealogy of Jesus.

As noted in the linked Wikipedia article, there remains some dispute even today. Matthew and Luke apparently gave us different genealogies, and reconciling the difference is a real headache. That is, if you think it matters, then there is a problem. You can’t just embrace one explanation or another and wave your hands to dismiss those who disagree, if you are going to operate in the realm of law and historical research.

The proper approach is to first understand why either of the gospels include the list. Matthew is attempting to answer lingering questions Jewish believers may have. Yes, Joseph could legally adopt Jesus as his human son, for what it’s worth. Luke offers to a Gentile audience a scholarly statement that Jesus was a real human, not a fable. Whether or not Luke’s list is actually Mary’s genealogy is rather beside the point. Consider that Luke is working from Jewish records as an outsider, but as one familiar with Jewish scholarly traditions. Was it simply a matter of key figures, not a direct lineal descent? Was it a matter of different names for the same guys, something quite common in Hebrew history?

We don’t really know — and we shouldn’t get wrapped around the question as if it really mattered. What qualified Jesus for the title, “Son of God”? The issue was actually settled at Jesus’ baptism by His cousin’s hands in the Jordan River and again on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 3:17, 17:5; Mark 1:11, 9:7; Luke 3:22, 9:35; 2 Peter 1:17). If you aren’t going to buy that, then there’s no point in pursuing any of this.

Jesus as the Son of God, and therefore rightly Lord of your life, is a truth that calls to you regardless of alleged factual data. I’ve said repeatedly that there is no such thing as objective truth. If you think objective facts matter, then you’ll never understand the gospel. Every mighty miracle of God comes with plausible deniability for the human mind. As long as your intellect rules your life, you cannot hear the voice of God in the first place.

If we cannot establish the facts about Jesus’ genealogy, it’s because they don’t really matter. The notion, commonly assumed in the West, that truth arises from facts, and that the facts must first be established before we can have truth, is the Devil’s trick from back in the Garden of Eden. If you don’t understand that what mankind commonly assumes to be “reality” is likely variable, then you’ll always struggle to hear the voice of God calling you to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

Yes, I’m suggesting that alternate realities exist. It’s not just human perception that cannot be trusted, much less human memory, but that we cannot trust the human drive for seeking certitude, the myth that we can possibly arrive at objective factual certainty about much of anything. It’s not just miracles that affect reality — Jesus born of a virgin — but miracles abound in that space of uncertainty where humans differ on what they experienced in a particular moment of time.

It was part of the Judaizers’ game to act as if facts really mattered. All that really matters is narrative, the story we tell of God’s greatness in our personal lives. We should act as if reality is a person we all experience differently — the same person seeming different to different folks who encounter him/her (gender is immaterial and depends on your perception). This requires a heart-led level of awareness that never presumes to establish some alleged factual account, but decides whether it is justified at some point to take seriously the narrative someone offers.

Even if there was an objective reality, it’s highly doubtful that any human would be capable of knowing, much less communicating such knowledge, with sufficient reliability to compel others to agree.

John’s Revelation should teach us one thing: Trust your heart first over your intellect, or you’ll never understand anything that matters.

About Ed Hurst

Disabled Veteran, prophet of God's Laws, Bible History teacher, wannabe writer, volunteer computer technician, cyclist, Social Science researcher
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